Jasper Gerard reviews
Bistrot Bruno Loubet - 8/10
Friday, June 04, 2010 - Even apparently straightforward dishes such as pan-fried pollock have been lifted. The addition of squid ink adds saltiness and celeriac puree bitterness. My confit lamb shoulder with nicely chargrilled red pepper and a really powerful preserved lemon puree sounds like a conventional Mediterranean dish, but the crunchiness of white bean and the spice of harissa turn it into an international hit. So many flavours are dancing here it could all end in a crumpled heap but Loubet has choreographed this perfectly.
Paramount - 6/10
Friday, May 28, 2010 - My starter of salad with sardines does a little more than it says on the tin and is even generous with tasty leaves and red onion rings. The weak link is the pesto sauce, underpowered against the sardine. Alas we are back to portion control with my rump of beef, which is considerably smaller than the jug of bearnaise sauce. The best dish here is five-spice monkfish with creamy, toothy saffron risotto and crab spring roll. The only failure is an incidental aubergine puree that can't compete with these strong flavours.
Bingham - 8/10
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - My main course of slow-cooked suckling pig and seared scallop is a lovely coupling. But amid the expected - strips of crackling, some slightly underpowered apple puree, really good 'pig's head' in croquette form, asparagus, a tiny dollop of creamy mash - unexpected pleasures lurk. Lentils, for instance, mildly spiced with coriander and cumin. This is complex cooking masterfully executed, which recently won Shay Cooper his first Michelin star...This is British and it deserves a medal.
Dean Street Townhouse - 5/10
Friday, April 23, 2010 - The Dean Street Dining Room is dangerously fun: flickering lamps illuminate dark green wallpaper and works by a new generation of hard-living artists. And, alas, the food. What's this? Mince and boiled rice. Fish and chips with marrowfat peas. Even Brussels sprouts, which are virtually illegal. Simplicity is fine, but will folk come 'oop West' for this?...Rarely have I found such a dashing place serving such crashing food. It's smoothly done but tradition without a twist can be deadly.
Petrus - 8/10
Friday, April 09, 2010 - The highlight is the rosy lobster on the a la carte menu which reclines on a sun lounger of pork like a fair English beauty pinkening by the pool. The pork comes in a cider sauce (like boozy apple sauce) and tastes like a well-cooked Sunday roast but for the surprise of luxurious lobster. The generous set lunch's main course - boiled beef cheeks with root vegetables and cardamom consomme - is almost as delicious, though not quite such eye candy. If main courses are impressive, puddings excel...
TABLE - 7/10
Friday, March 12, 2010 - I begin with porcini, celery heart and mascarpone risotto; my guest with gnocchi and braised oxtail. It all looks lovely, particularly the oxtail garlanded around the bowl. The delicious gnocchi is light and fluffy thanks to semolina (and lashings of butter) in place of potato. This is finished under the grill with a slice of gruyere. My risotto is creamy but firm, full of aromatic parsley and coriander...This is an impressive, thoughtful restaurant, though not quite the celebration of British rustic cooking I expected.
Dinings - 8/10
Friday, March 05, 2010 - Particularly delectable is the soft-shell crab spring roll. The crab has a wonderfully soft yet crunchy texture. Also impressive is the spicy tuna wasabi rolls with wasabi leaf, a spicier alternative to the more typical wasabi powder. The biggest surprise of all is the very traditional duck breast 'Hoba-yaki' with sweet miso and a faint scent of sandalwood, served on a magnolia leaf. The duck is incredibly smoky, almost bacon-esque, a taste that's expertly balanced by the sweetness of miso.
Tike - 6/10
Friday, February 19, 2010 - We try the speciality, including kebabs sold by the metre. Gulp. They are a mixture of modern and traditional. Our minced grilled lamb adana kebab lands on a wooden platter, so long you could float down the Bosphorus on it. You wrap the meat in thin lavash bread which soaks up the juices, chucking in onions, chargrilled tomatoes, peppers and parsley. Overwhelming, but tender and flavoursome. Less successful is ali nazik, a southern Turkish dish of roasted aubergine puree with yogurt, scattered with minced lamb. The lamb is pretty good but the sour yogurt overpowers the aubergine.
Le Jules Verne - 8/10
Friday, February 12, 2010 - My wild duck looks dark outside but quite red-blooded within. The fresh, light cabbage is a fine foil for the rich duck, with the fruity cherry cutting the slight fattiness. Diana's generous helping of moist, buttery pan-sauteed monkfish on the bone with potatoes and saffron, supported by juicy mussels in slurpable shellfish sauce is delicious, manly fayre. And to think I'd anticipated a pompous restaurant, full of fussy foams that are all froth and no frolic.
The Kitchin - 4/5
Friday, January 15, 2010 - I hardly feel I'm economising with the 'head to tail' pork. There is a deliciously rich quail's egg with terrine of pork (cheek, ear) with crackling, bacon and haggis, while gherkin adds acidity and texture: fun and tasty. Just as fine is roast duck, still smouldering from the 12-bore that interrupted its day, in gravy with apricots, fresh almonds and potato barbecued on a rosemary skewer. But the highlight is Diana's boudin of (ubiquitous) pork belly with Devonshire snails, with seared lettuce and a garlicky parsley sauce.
Wheeler's of St. James's - 4/5
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - The menu is reassuring. You can even order stout. The emphasis is on massive helpings, simply cooked. As you would expect, the presentation is impeccable. Over two visits I'm beguiled by juicy, sweet scallops with matching discs of black pudding lined in a huge shell with green apple sauce. Even macho calf's tongue is feminised, fashioned like a petal. A fish pie is topped with mash shaped like a perfect beehive, and hides hulking chunks of cod, prawn, boiled egg, spinach and parsley.
Galvin La Chapelle - 4/5
Friday, December 04, 2009 - I expected my slow-cooked lamb shoulder and herb ravioli to be similarly dainty, but weirdly the menu meandered from the classically French to red-blooded Basque. This dish was all about the huge, manly meat, the scattering of four ravioli pieces an over-salted afterthought to succulent lamb and punchy red peppers. Diana's main course took us all the way to Morocco: a tagine of squab pigeon and harissa sauce. The tender, pink pigeon was cooked sous vide, the juices forming a sauce, harissa delivering a spicy shot.
Friday, November 27, 2009 - My guest is Heston Blumenthal and even he declares it a treat to lunch amid such opulence...My highlight is 'pan-fried' foie gras with peach, honey, amaretti, black olive and peach jelly. It comes with fantastic, surprisingly strong almonds...If Blumenthal were not already sighing in chefly appreciation, he is cooing even more compliments over scallops and cod confit with cauliflower, smoked corals, macadamia nuts and shallot dressing. The cod has been cooked slowly en sous vide after salting...
Hix Soho - 4/5
Friday, October 23, 2009 - The menu reworks Chop House favourites while offering more fish. There are also a few new Hix meat creations. After we've sampled a great selection of Monmouthshire cured meats we are wowed by 'heaven and earth', the best black pudding I've tasted, devised with a Cumbrian farmer...My dense nettle soup with fat snails is also excellent, though it could do with a few more slivers of wild boar bacon for texture and smoky flavour. I'm ambivalent about my hanger steak with baked bone marrow...
The Luxe - 3/5
Friday, October 16, 2009 - Our guest coos over woody Jerusalem artichoke soup with girolles and truffles redolent of nose-tingling October walks. I'm also cheered by my roast quail-foie gras combination. Unusually for a starter it comes with matchstick chips, though it could perhaps do with more foie gras and red wine jus, as could my grouse...Our friend's John Dory with mussels and clams, roast garlic and parsley resides in buttery sautÃ©ed spinach with an insipid broth. There's little sign of the advertised roast garlic.
Bocca di Lupo - 4.5/5
Friday, October 02, 2009 - One of our favourite dishes is artichoke a la Giudia, fried to resemble a burnished rose with a gooey middle and crispy petals. A highlight is spaghettini with chunks of lobster, mussels and ginger, a signature dish of the restaurant's British chef Jacob Kenedy. It's made with tomato sauce, fish stock and white wine, but it's the ginger that really sings. We also like the robust autumn flavours of the tagliatelle with pigeon and pork ragu, but find the pigeon a little too dominant...
Monday, August 03, 2009 - I'm soon eating my grumbling words along with my burger. The wholegrain bap is excellent, as si the salad. The 'burger' is full of tasty beans and the cheese isn't bad. My only quibble is with the 'rasher', which is rather like eating solid air. Overall, though, this is a prejudice-challenging and enjoyable dish. I swill it down with a glass of Fairtrade rose...My wife is not enamoured of her 'fish' burger, which contains a pair of what look like fish fingers, just not as flavoursome. We have been warned about the vegan ice cream, so finish with a couple of cakes and, despite the cow milk substitute, these are pretty good.
Terroirs - 5/5
Friday, June 05, 2009 - We have juicy, small clams with aioli in a broth with vermouth, as well as large whole Dorset crab with good mayonnaise. Both are faultless, but if we'd realised just how good this chef was, we would have gone for dishes to better show off his cooking...A procession of thrilling plats du jour pass, but our waitress bans me from ordering a pungent braised shoulder of Cornish lamb, with couscous, aubergine and harissa. She says I'll explode.
Great Queen Street - 4/5
Friday, May 15, 2009 - My braised shoulder of lamb is also mighty good, again slow cooked in vegetables and stock, love-bombing the meat with flavours. Normally I'd have been delighted by it, but instead I feel slightly peeved my friend's porking on the pork…Shabby walls, cheap pine and a thundering noise with food that doesn't quite realise it's dead yet: Great Queen Street is probably not the place to take a catwalk lovely…but if you just want to pig-out, get your snout down here. It's a trough not to be sniffed at.
River Cottage Canteen - 2/5
Thursday, April 30, 2009 - I'll start with the main course, given that our waiter did. I want cold roast topside of beef salad. That's finished, so Diana and I share spelt paella with wild mussels, day-boat-caught pollack and chicken. This £25 dish contains four mussels. Diana assures me they are succulent, but they are so tiny I can't verify that. Is the lack of prawns, squid or anything very interesting due to concerns about sustainability, or affordability? Has the chef even heard of stock? And he certainly doesn't believe in being generous with that much-loved paella staple, pimentón.
Fino - 4/5
Thursday, April 02, 2009 - We start, as we always did until someone declared it uncool, with sherry. Now it's lost its association with the vicar's over 65-club, it helps to call us across the plain to Spain. We order a selection of dishes which come in an order of the restaurant's choosing, many new to the menu… The lunch's highlight is calçots, a cross between spring onion and baby leeks that are so prized in Catalonia that 15,000 locals turn up for festivals in their honour. These juicy, crunchy, wonderfully fresh vegetables come in an orange romesco sauce of tomato, almonds, balsamic vinegar, red peppers and breadcrumbs – a delight.
Friday, March 20, 2009 - Inexplicably, the Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain is only open for dinner once a month, on the first Friday of every month. Aficionados book early and return regularly to enjoy long set feasts, each course accompanied by a glass of wine selected by the excellent head sommelier, Hamish Anderson, from the director's capacious cellar… At £60 a head, this is a secret bargain.
St Alban - 8/10
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - I try that great peasant dish, Sardinia's version of bouillabaisse. This fish stew wraps you in winter comfort with manly chunks of monkfish cheeks, cod, baby cuttlefish, mussels and razor clams that have simmered in thick overripe tomato sauce infused with basil, chives and dill. My guest's swordfish with spiced aubergine and pesto on a bed of tomato and mushrooms is a work of art to rival the Hirst. If it were not so deliciously moist you might be tempted to have a game.
Corrigan's Mayfair - 8.5/10
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 - His new restaurant is superb, showcasing typically gutsy, gamey Irish cooking. And what value. The great secret of how to eat in top restaurants at low prices is to seek out set-lunch menus. If Angela Hartnett's Murano is a fantastic bargain, Corrigan's blows me away: a fine two-course lunch and carafe of wine for £19.50. You could be stung for more at Café Rouge.
The Vyse Room at Stoke Place - 4/10
Friday, October 17, 2008 - When we eventually hit the village of Stoke Poges, a local kindly directs us to the Vyse Room, Stoke Place, by reeling off as landmarks various housing developments. Eventually we crunch up a drive to a William and Mary manor house that is pure Jane Austen…The dining-room is one of the most magnificent I've entered: light blue with high, stark-white ceilings and French windows leading to lawns and lakes. You half expect some fop in knee breeches to charge through crying "Oh Millicent, how could you?" before venting his frustration on a game of croquet.
The River Cafe - 8/10
Thursday, October 09, 2008 - At the grand relaunch, I do an instant double take: isn't the restaurant exactly the same? OK, so the kitchen, including vast bread oven, is now open. New space has been bought at the back to house a private dining room where children can watch films at weekends while parents merrily imbibe at their table. Most innovatively, there is a cheese store so the wonderful pecorino Canestrato can age like fine vino.
The Modern Pantry - 8/10
Friday, September 19, 2008 - Anna Hansen…one of London's best-regarded female chefs…has spent the past four years struggling to open her first solo venture, The Modern Pantry. She finally managed it on Tuesday, the day London wallets turned to stone. It wasn't exactly packed.
L'Autre Pied - 7/10
Friday, August 29, 2008 - You can't fault the value. At 16.50 for two courses of guinea fowl and lamb, this will soon go head to head on price with Spud U Like. But while it is advisable to book in advance, here it might be judicious to eat in advance. Despite seven courses, we depart merely full rather than Boris-esque.